International Astronomical Union General Assembly Symposium #374: Astronomical Hazards for Life on Earth

Dates: August 9-11, 2022
Location: Busan, Rep. of Korea

The Symposium will be part of the scientific events of the XXXIst General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union, to be held in Busan, Rep. of Korea. The GA will go from August 2 to 11, 2022 in a hybrid format, with in person and virtual talks.
The IAU Symposium #374 will take part in the second week of the GA, from Aug. 9 to 11.

Rationale of the Symposium

The end of humanity has been a topic of great concern across ages and civilizations. This is reflected in the wealth of references throughout many cultures and religions. Over the last several decades, studies have allowed us to better understand the most likely threats to life on Earth, both in the past and the future. Mass extinctions, which have thus far been caused by natural phenomena, have most substantially affected life on Earth. This symposium will focus on a comparative analysis of natural threats, caused by astronomical phenomena, which could lead to a new extinction, and not the anthropic causes. Current and future mitigation strategies will also be discussed.

We plan to cover all potential hazards caused by astronomical phenomena. Thus, this is multi- and cross-disciplinary topic, encompassing many astronomical objects:

  • Solar System: Near Earth Objects (NEOs), Earth’s magnetic field
  • Sun: Activity, Evolution
  • Passing stars, Supernovae, Black holes
  • Cosmic Rays, GRB
  • Passage through IM, Motion in the Galaxy, Galactic center
  • Galactic collisions, Fate of the Universe
  • Social aspects, Historical and philosophical perspective
  • Effects in Telecommunications, Space facilities

This list of astronomical phenomena are of very different nature and their effects on living beings have a broad set of consequences. In addition, these phenomena covers many temporal and spatial scales; therefore, the actions to forecast, prevent and mitigate their effects have to be very different. Nevertheless, humanity has already started to take some actions. Examples of these are the office established by several space agencies to deal with the impact and the space weather problems, and some international activities like the series of Planetary Defense Conferences and the International Space Weather Initiative.

In spite of the different temporal and spatial scales of these phenomena, from a philosophical and theological perspective, questions concerning the end of life exceed even these scales, reducing it to an even more fundamental problem.
Questions concerning the ultimate end and meaning of life were for long regarded as religious issues. This has been recently challenged. Moreover, the idea that the world will come to an end supports a nihilistic view towards life, since there would be little meaning to it. However, we propose that carefully exploring the distinction between cosmological, religious, and philosophical interpretations of the ‘end’ of life may reveal a deeper understanding of both the individual’s and society’s place within the cosmos.

To achieve this objective, we would assemble a team of subject matter experts, including astronomers, space technicians, engineers, philosophers, and theologians, who would work together to address this central question for Humanity.

The webpage banner is a collage of paintings. Image credits: Asteroid impact: by David A. Hardy (; Sun & CME impacting Earth: unknown original source; Supernova explosion reaching Earth: NASA.

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